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5 Things You Gotta' Know About Cockatoos

These birds aren't for everyone, but there's no other pet quite like a cockatoo.

Amanda Lafond

Follow Amanda Lafond on Twitter at @PepperNPals

The most famous cockatoo is Snowball, the dancing 'too. 

Known for their clownish antics and cuddly disposition, these Australian natives have delighted parrot parents the world over. Whether it’s dancing on YouTube, appearing in films and television, or becoming therapeutic companions, cockatoos have cemented their place in aviculture. But owning a cockatoo isn’t just a step up from a cockatiel. It’s a whole flight of stairs. Here are five facts to get you started:

1) A cockatoo's sexual maturity is delayed, so they go through puberty later than other parrot species. Owners may become dismayed during this time, as it can bring drastic changes in behavior. "Cockatoos can become extremely aggressive during puberty.  The behavior change doesn't typically start until the bird is 4-5 years old.  We strongly encourage bird owners to work with their bird during this time and not give up on them. We do however encourage them to be careful during this time as we don't want anyone being hurt,” said Katie Calcasola of The Golden Cockatoo.

2) Cockatoos are regarded as some of the cuddliest of parrots. They’ve even been known to request petting from strangers. These crested clowns are typically friendly and playful. There are plenty of videos on YouTube of cockatoos dancing to music. This can make a cockatoo a tempting pet, but you shouldn’t rush out to find one just yet. Calcasola said, "The most common misconception about cockatoos is that they are always cuddly and sweet.  This is not always true as some cockatoos can become extremely aggressive, especially during breeding season.  I have known cockatoos who have turned aggressively on their owners after many years of love and affection.”

3) Cockatoos are smart, social creatures whose care is not to be taken lightly. They may not be the best talkers, but cockatoos are capable of problem solving. Curious ‘toos can get themselves into trouble and must be watched out of the cage. Their high intelligence and need for interaction also puts them at risk for boredom. A cockatoo that isn’t properly cared for may suffer mentally. "Cockatoos are prone to self-mutilation and feather plucking,” Calcasola said.

Moluccan Cockatoo 

4) Although they are much harder to care for, Cockatoos do share a couple similarities with their cockatiel cousins. This includes powder down feathers. Calcasola warns, "Cockatoos need to be in a home where no one has allergies or asthma as they are a high dander bird.  This dander can cause problems for those with breathing difficulties.”

Both ‘toos and ‘tiels also have crests, which can indicate emotion. "Most crested birds use their crest to show excitement and to ward off predators. One may also see excitement in these birds as they raise their crests and begin to dance.  It is important to be very careful when the bird is excited and animated as this can switch to aggression very quickly.”

5) Cockatoos are known to scream. This is not a bird suited for an apartment or close neighbors. "The cockatoo is a loud bird so the home environment that is best for this bird is a quiet home.  If these birds are in a loud/chaotic home they will get louder as the home gets louder,” Calcasola said.

Want to know more about cockatoos? Check out these articles:

Top 10 Pet Cockatoo Parrot Questions Answered
5 Ways To Play With Your Cockatoo


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Posted: June 10, 2014, 5:45 p.m. PDT

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5 Things You Gotta' Know About Cockatoos

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Reader Comments
Cockatoos have highly complex personalities that need constant maintenance. To be truly successful with these birds they must become true family members. Outings with your bird are a must. Trips to the park, dining out, and strolls down the street are all bonding events. The more you socialize these birds the more awesome they become. But, don't bring a cockatoo home unless you have 5 hours a day to spend with them.
Charles, Orlando, FL
Posted: 7/29/2014 6:05:29 AM
There is a reason Cockatoos are serially re-homed. These complicated, emotionally supercharged parrots are not for the faint of heart and certainly not for the inexperienced or uninitiated. With proper understanding of their personalities and training needs, a Too/Owner relationship is a rewarding one. I have had Cockatoos for years and none of mine are the feather plucking, neurotic screamers their species have a rep for. There are no problem Cockatoos, but there are problem owners. An owner who has the time and knowledge to provide a proper environment (mental, physical and nutritional) can have a loving, life long relationship with these amazing and intelligent birds. If you are considering a Cockatoo there are so many looking for a forever home, please ADOPT from a reputable re-homing or sanctuary center who can help you connect with the right Too for you, and offer transitional support. 'Cockatoo Love' is like no other :)
Kaku2mom, Benicia, CA
Posted: 6/18/2014 10:45:32 AM
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